Priest Found Guilty
We Are Central
September 22, 2015
A priest of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Pennsylvania, was found guilty after an eight-day jury trial of offenses related to his sexual abuse of three minor boys during trips to Honduras over a five-year period, U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.
Joseph D. Maurizio Jr., 70, of Central City, Pennsylvania, was convicted of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places, possession of child pornography and international money laundering. He is scheduled to be sentenced on February 2, 2016, at 10 a.m.
U.S. Attorney Hickton stated, “The jury’s conviction affirms the courage of these victims, the tenacity of the investigators and the resolve of our prosecutors to ensure justice. We remain steadfast in our commitment to protect children from predators here and pursue those who travel beyond our borders to offend. We are especially vigilant where a person uses a position of trust to victimize the most vulnerable among us.”
"What Maurizio did to the children in Honduras while swindling unsuspecting Americans for money to support his pedophilia is atrocious," said John Kelleghan, HSI Philadelphia Special Agent in Charge. "The jury's verdict is testament that society will not tolerate this behavior, and HSI will continue to use its transnational investigative capabilities to bring American child predators to justice -- no matter where they commit their crimes."
“Investigations of this importance are only possible when each individual agency lends their manpower and expertise to the goal of achieving justice,” added Edward M. Wirth,
Assistant Special Agent in Charge, IRS - Criminal Investigation. “The Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation will continue to provide the financial expertise in these investigations and will readily assist in the analysis of the financial activities of those who violate the laws of our country.”
According to the evidence introduced at trial, the defendant created a charitable organization, known at the time as Honduras Interfaith Ministries (HIM), which was funded by donations from members of the community, including parishioners of Our Lady Queen of Angels Church in Central City. The evidence showed that HIM became the largest donor to Pro Nino, a non-profit organization that provided shelter and rehabilitative services to poor, abandoned and at risk children residing in a rural town outside of San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
The trial evidence further demonstrated that Maurizio often used his position as Pro Nino’s largest donor to gain unfettered access to the boys that lived there. In addition, the evidence showed that Maurizio used HIM funds to pay for 13 separate trips between the United States and Honduras between 2004 and 2009, during which he sexually abused three minor boys between the ages of 12 and 17. The government presented evidence that, prior to three of these trips, Maurizio transferred $8,000 from accounts located in the Western District of Pennsylvania to accounts and individuals located in Honduras, and that he used these funds to purchase gifts including clothes, shoes and jewelry that he gave to the minor boys in order to gain their trust and to ensure their compliance during the sexual acts he perpetrated against them. The evidence presented at trial also showed that, during his final trip to Honduras, Maurizio paid two minor boys, ages 14 and 15, to engage in sexual acts with him.
In addition, trial evidence showed that, during a search of the rectory of Our Lady Queen of Angels Church, federal investigators recovered digital media depicting the young boys Maurizio sexually abused, and images of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct.
The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation in Pittsburgh. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Amy E. Larson of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Haines of the Western District of Pennsylvania.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ offices and CEOS, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.